Borden Oaks Plantation, Greensboro Alabama

Date added: July 22, 2022 Categories: Alabama House Plantations & Farms
Rear and side (south) elevation, camera facing northwest (1993)

The Borden Oaks Plantation was formed in the 1830s by John and Mary Cocke of Fluvanna County, Virginia. John Cocke was a first cousin to John Hartwell Cocke, the noted Virginia planter, reformer and friend to Thomas Jefferson who resided at Bremo, the Jeffersonian mansion. John Cocke and John Hartwell Cocke both purchased large tracts of land west of Greensboro and John Cocke acted as supervisor of Hartwell Cocke's landholdings. John and Mary Cocke presented the plantation now known as Borden Oaks to their daughter Martha upon her marriage to John Gray in 1835. The Grays immediately began construction of a plantation house. John Gray died however, while the timbers for the structure were being prepared. Martha Cocke Gray completed the construction of the house with the help of her father. Martha Gray later married Benjamin Borden and the property became known as Borden Oaks. The youngest child of the Cock-Borden marriage was James Pennington Borden. Martha Cocke Gray was born in 1808 and her youngest son was born in 1852. The property today is owned by Mrs. Martha Cocke Gray Borden's granddaughter, Mary Esther Borden Coleman, daughter of James Pennington Borden. The property comprises 346 acres of the original Cocke plantation.

Building Description

Constructed in 1835, Borden Oaks is a significant example of an I-house with rear ell form embellished with Classical Revival detailing. The two story frame house rests on a small knoll in the midst of a grove of towering oak trees. The house faces west at the terminus of the original entrance drive. The approach today is from the south, through pasture and croplands and across a levee of a man-made lake.

The dwelling house was built using mortise and tenon construction; the house rests on brick piers and is covered with weatherboarding. The central portion of the facade, originally protected by a portico features flush boarding wall material. The hip roof of the main block as well as the gabled roof wing is covered in standing seam sheet metal. There are three chimneys, all located at the exterior end. The five bay facade has double hung sash windows; those on the first floor are 9/9 pane configuration while those on the second floor are 9/6 pane. The structure once featured a double tiered pedimented portico supported by Tuscan columns on both floors. The Tuscan columns were hewn from solid tree trunks and are in an excellent state of preservation. The portico columns have been removed and have been placed in the central hall. A centrally placed, double leaf entrance with multipane transom and sidelights is located on each floor.

The rear ell is attached to the main block at the northeast corner of the dwelling. A small one story porch is attached to the rear of the dwelling and a side porch (which has been enclosed to form two small rooms) is located on the northern elevation along the rear ell. This side porch which has been enclosed, was once attached to a kitchen wing with an open breezeway. The kitchen wing which has been removed, contained a large kitchen, pantry, and cook's room. The rear ell is located over a brick cellar.

The interior of the dwelling is based on a central hall plan with large flanking 20' x 20' rooms. The central hall features a delicately detailed staircase which rises along the north wall of the hallway, across the back of the hall over the rear double leaf entrance and up along the south wall. Fluted moldings and bullseye corner blocks adorn all window and door surrounds. The doors are all of the "Cross and Bible" configuration and all retain their original hardware, including large Carpenter locks. The fireplaces are all tri-part Federal style and each room contains a chairrail. The rear ell is separated from the main house by a cross stairhall and a smaller room. On the first floor, the smaller room was used as a pantry while on the upper floor, the smaller room was a water closet. The side entrance door on the northern elevation features a small transom and provided access to the former kitchen wing. The side entrance on the southern elevation of the rear ell originally contained a louvered panel; the staircase turns in front of the doorway, providing for a cumbersome access to the cross hall. The cross hall staircase and smaller rooms on both floors featured wood graining which may have been prevalent throughout the house.

Located on the grounds of Borden Oaks is a barn, shed, and two tenant houses, all of which date from the mid 1930s.